Friday, December 31, 2010

The Highs and Lows of 2010 - The Highs

Interspersing my "Highs" of 2010 from work. I actually found 2010 to be a pretty good year, other than that whole death thing hovering over the family. Lots of visits, new friends online (and in person), traveling, and some good music. And a full year of learning how to cope with my diabetes. Since that's a year-long endeavor, it's not part of the list. But I'm learning what my personal boundaries are regarding food, insulin, meds, etc. Other than my weight still being heavy, and lack of any real exercise (think those might be related?), the rest of my numbers and lab results look pretty good.

Be sure to read the post below this one first!! It's my "Lows" list. Makes the "Highs" list much better (most have links back to posts).

"The 10 High Points of 2010"
(from less high to highest of the high)
10. Date w/My Niece - In late January, I took my niece to see the touring show of Jesus Christ Superstar in Missoula. It was nice to have a dinner conversation with her outside of the family setting, and I scored cool uncle points when we walked in and were ushered to the front row, absolute center, seats!

9. Carroll College Fighting Saints - Despite the disappointing season of the Griz, we were able to cheer on the Saints as they won their 6th NAIA national championship of the decade. They defeated the University of Sioux Falls, who won the other 4 championships of the decade. And it looks like the streak may continue well into the next decade!

8. CHS 35-yr Reunion - My high school class celebrated its 35th year this summer. We had a one-night reunion, which I wasn't really looking forward to. But it was a great time, I got to see a number of people that I hadn't seen since graduation, and was happy to realize that we weren't all the old farts that I expected. Well, most of us weren't! Actually makes me look forward to the 40th!

7. OsShirt revival - After some stops and starts, the OsShirt got back on track this year on its travels across the country (and across the Atlantic!). I was even reunited with it in August for a weekend! Even though it's currently hung up again...I'm confident that there's going to be some great adventures in 2011! Is it sensible to be envious of a shirt??

6. New Toys! - By necessity and/or by choice, this was the year of new toys! Including a new (used) car, a new phone (OK, I got it at the end of 2009), and a new TV. Of course, I can't really afford all of this, but like I said, necessity and/or choice. And I'd like to upgrade the computer, and Michelle could really use an overhaul. Those will have to stay on the back burner for now though. To wrap this all up, I was able to text people about the new TV in the back of my car on the day I bought it!

5. Visits By Friends - I got to see my three main beer drinking buddies a few times this summer. Even though my beer drinking has pretty much waned. Moose was my roommate for almost a week which was wonderful! I got to see Kamey a couple of times when she was here (and at her brother's wedding), and Rachel came down a couple of times (including Ray's funeral). I also got to see my favorite adult movie star Tara Tainton when she passed through town on a road trip! Actually, she was supposed to be my date for the class reunion, but she got delayed. Man, that could have been a lot of fun!

4. Music Man - No, not the musical. I played in two different bands this summer. The newer of the two bands is the soul band, logically called, Big Soul Band. Eight white guys and a white chick singer from Montana playing soul. Yeah, it works! But I was forced to write dozens of arrangements in a short amount of time. High stress? You bet! But I thrive on that! The other band is the one that broke up in 2007. We played for the wedding reception of Kamey's brother and wife. It was only the second time in 36 months that we've played together, and while it wasn't as smooth as I though it might have been, it was still great. Hopefully we might consider getting the band back together for real in the new year!

3. Symphony Stuff - Beyond the regular symphony stuff that I deal with on a regular basis, I was hired in an additional capacity for 3 special concerts. That of production manager. The one guy with the answers. The one guy where the buck can be expected to stop. The one guy that gets to boss the conductor and everyone else around (judiciously, of course). It's an aspect of the performances that I thoroughly enjoy, and am pretty good at. Depending on the concert, I might have to give up the musician side of me, but so far, I've been able to juggle them pretty well. The biggest of these concerts is our free outdoor concert in the summer. With a crowd of well over 15,000, fireworks, construction of a stage, and transportation of equipment from all over town, it's right up my alley. And I love it!

2. Nashville - One year from this very moment, I was packing and preparing to fly out to Nashville on New Year's Day. I was there to meet up with M to go see Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and to meet some of the Nashville bloggers/HNTers. After meeting up with 13 Messages on New Year's night at Hooters, we were joined on the next night by M, Shizzle, and Bat. It was colder in TN than it was in Helena, and we didn't get the people that lived nearby to make the trip. But those of us that were together had a great time! I stuck around for a couple of days, which were spent exploring. Nashville might very well be my favorite town!

1. BTExpress' Pool Party - For as much fun as Nashville was, BTExpress' pool party takes the #1 spot this year. Not because it was better, but because it happened at the end of a very busy summer for me. The break was definitely needed! As mentioned in the "Lows" list, the turn-out was disappointing, but the rest of us had a great time! It was a very laid back evening for BTE, Lori, Shizzle (twice in the same year!), Hubman and Veronica. In addition, I was able to meet up with an old girlfriend during my layover in Minneapolis, and had lunch with Minority Report before leaving New York! And as a total bonus, I got a $400 ticket voucher to use by next August! OsTour '11 plans are soon to be made!
There you have it. My "Highs" for 2010. Many of you are probably already at parties as I'm posting this. I'm staying home and watching movies all night. I hope that everyone is having a safe but fun NYE! Looking forward to a great 2011!!

The Highs and Lows of 2010 - The Lows

Once again, it's time for my annual recap of the year. Other than two really, really low points, this year wasn't too bad. But those two pretty much swayed the pendulum towards the "this year sucked" side. This is my fourth year of doing this, and as I've found in the past, it's hard to come up with ten real "lows". In fact, one or two on this list will make the "highs" list, I'm sure! Of course, there were some terrible things that happened in the world, but these are things that affected me somewhat directly. And they don't necessarily mean they were bad things, or that life as I knew it changed. There's some definite bad things listed, but mostly just things that brought me down or perturbed me during the year. Most of these won't have a link to a specific post. This is what makes my "lows" list (the "highs" list can be seen above...):

"The 10 Low Points of 2010"
(from least low to lowest of the low)
10. Montana Grizzly Football - I hate to put my beloved Griz on this list, but they really let me down this season. Granted, they had a new head coach this season, but the expectations were quite high, as usual. They lost games they shouldn't have, and beat lesser teams by only a few points. Then they had to go and lose to the Bobkittens, at home! And we all saw what happened because of that! Griz, I hope 2011 is a better year for you!

9. Technology Failures - This is a fairly generic category, but I didn't know how else to say it. My wireless router and my computer have been at odds for most of the year, which means I've been fighting with both of them. Unfortunately, I'm not sure which to blame. Online, I was disappointed with Blogrolling.com shutting down. At one time, it was a great way to build your blogrolls, without having to add your favorites by hand. And it was less hassle than having a lot of blogs in your reader. It was by chance that I got on to their site to find a notice that they would be shutting down in two weeks, and there was no way to save your lists without doing them individually, by copy/paste. Their reason for shutting down--"no one left in the company who built the service to keep it running". No one that I'm aware of has stepped in to offer the same thing, so now I have a file with hundreds of blogs listed, and no way to add them to my site. After last year's failure with Haloscan, I'm reluctant to try anything new. Funny...it seems like Blogger has finally shown the most stability, even moreso than Wordpress!

8. Facebook/Twitter/Blogger - Which is a nice segue into this topic. I'm disappointed in the noticeable decline in blogging/bloggers this past year. It seems like Facebook and Twitter have elbowed their way in. While I like what Facebook is (despite its disregard for privacy and constant changes that no one really wants), I think it's lessened the online experience for many. As a friend mentioned yesterday, people only think in short blurbs anymore, rather than writing as a craft. Anything longer than a paragraph will soon no longer exist! Twitter, on the other hand, is the spawn of the devil. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about it. And the people who use it like texting can rot in hell. Remember that the public is reading your crap. And they don't really want to be. Remember the old days when you'd just text one person about personal stuff, rather than broadcasting it to all? And what's up with this "following" contest? Or even worse...worrying about who "unfollowed"? It's back to junior high again!

7. Sage Saga - I purposely avoided saying anything about the "outing" of Sage, and his subsequent disappearance when it happened. It's no secret that I didn't like him, but as I said at the time, I wouldn't wish his situation on my worst enemy. (Secretly, I might have considered including the whole thing on my "Highs" list...) But why this made the list is because of how people I generally respect and like reacted to it. The name-calling, the blog posts, the all-out attacks on both sides of the fence--it was worse than schoolyard fights! And the number of weeks that it dragged on! Geez! For a lack of a better term, it was embarrassing. A new low for our community...

6. OsTours '10 - This will appear in the "Highs" list as well. The part that was terribly disappointing was not who I met or what I did, but those whom I didn't meet. It's probably quite selfish of me, but if I haul my butt thousands of miles to where you're at, is it really that hard to meet up one night? Granted, there were extenuating circumstances in Nashville (these people have no idea what to do when they see a snowflake!), but BTExpress' pool party had been planned for well over a year. And many of his RL friends and blogfriends indicated they'd show. Food and booze had been purchased. In the end, four of us showed up. Again, is it really that difficult to come out for one night? Fortunately, I've got great memories to fall back on, even without the people who said they'd be there...

5. Job situation - This is something that I haven't mentioned online. I basically work two half-time jobs. The symphony gig is probably less than half-time, but I do all my work in a concentrated time frame (one weekend/month, a handful of evenings, and flexible days). My "day" job is also half-time, allowing me great freedom for gigs, symphony, travel, etc. I'll never get rich, however. I was informed just after Thanksgiving, that I was going go be "indefinitely let go" as of Dec. 15th, due to a bad economic year. This coming after Dad's death, and right in the middle of the December symphony work. Because of that symphony work, I had planned to skip a day so I could set up. One of the owners took over my job that day. Apparently, I do more than they realized. So for the time being, I still have my "day" job, though my hours have been cut almost in half (so I'm now quarter time). They want to be able to bring me back to my previous hours, but it's a wait and see thing. I'm OK with that right now, but we'll see what it's like in February. Not sure how long I can go with the current situation.

4. Fire at Phain's - The night that Phain's apartment building went up in flames is still vivid in my mind. She had dropped out of blogging for the most part, and even many of her old fans had no idea where she'd run off to. Fortunately, we have kept in touch, so I knew about the fire as soon as someone put it online. At the time, it was thought that there was nothing salvageable, and I wanted to go into full rescue mode. As it turned out, she was able to salvage a great deal. And that rescue mode hit her friends and church, as people opened up their hearts and pocketbooks to help her out. While I still feel that I was pretty much helpless, it's good to know that the good karma fairy was on her side that week.

3. Rachel and other families - While I have been mourning all the death in my family for the past half year, I tended to forget that I'm not the only one who's seen his share of sadness. Rachel (for the newbies--one of the original HNTers and one of my beer-drinkin' buddies) had to deal with the death of her father early in the year. And then, after spending a summer in the mountains of Glacier Park, her longtime companion Midget (a cute little ratlike dog) was run down a day before they were to be reunited. Many others lost parents, kids, relatives, pets and friends. A friend sent me an email saying that she was sort of down this Christmas, but that she felt she had no right to say that after the year I've had. I said to her, "horse feathers!" (well, I used a different set of words, but you get the gist...) Sadness is as deep for each of us as it may be at the moment. No one individual's sadness should be more or less than anyone else's. So while I'm sad in my own life, I'm sad for Rachel, and the many others over the year who have expressed their sadness online, regardless of how you might think they "compare"...

2. BIL2's Death - Ray's death at 47 came totally out of the blue. He is the one who exercised, who ran, who actually watched what it was that he ate. He was active in the community. He was a great father. He was well-liked in the community. His death cast a dark cloud over the summer, though that's not what he would have wanted. It took months, but my sister (who was a rock) finally got past the daily condolences from well-meaning colleagues and workers. By the fall, some sense of normalcy was returning. Then Ray's father died (somewhat expected, and a bit of a blessing). She was able to survive that pretty well. We knew Thanksgiving would be a bit rough, with Ray not being at the table with us, but none of us was prepared for...

1. Dad's Death - I think I've said all I want to say in previous posts. This is a no-brainer.
So, that's the downer list for 2010. Some not so bad, some really bad. But as I said at the top, the year really wasn't monumentally bad. Fortunately, there were lots of good things that happened too! You can check those out in the "Highs" post above this one. Go. Now!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Favorite HNT 2010

Dec. 30th - Favorite HNT
This is your chance to show off which HNT that you posted this year is your favorite! Not someone else's HNT, but your own. And tell us why it's your favorite! Newbies are encouraged to do this as well, even if you've only posted a handful. It can be your favorite for many reasons--because of the circumstances, or because you had "help" taking it, or because you're smiling--whatever... But most important, it's got to be one of YOUR HNTs.
Like most of you, you probably had more than one picture that you considered a "favorite" this year. What struck me was the number of pictures that really didn't impress me in the least! In my mind, there were maybe six that stood out over the others. As Emmy told me in a chat, "We are our own worst critics." I suppose that's right. Of the six, I was able to narrow it down to three, so here they are...

This is one from January. In one of those "I don't know what to do" moments. God bless photo manipulation at those times! In fact, this same picture was used the next week, but in a variety of psychedelic colors, alá Warhol. I'm particularly impressed with this one though, as there seem to be more wrinkles and lines than what we realize exist in a regular picture. The details just jump out at me. And the eyes are sort of eerie too. All in all, pretty cool!

Another black & white picture (as opposed to grayscale) from September. Another of the "I don't know what to do" pictures. I didn't write any sort of missive as I usually do. Instead, I posted a variety of quotes using the word "future". Which, in turn, elicited all sorts of questions and concern about what I was thinking about.

As I said, it was just a way to get through the week. Little did I know that it actually WAS somewhat prophetic. Since mid-November, there's been a lot of looking towards the future. Not so much in front of that window, but some looking ahead, nonetheless.

For someone who usually doesn't use Photoshop or some other program, I find it interesting that two of my favorites were, in fact, manipulated!

This one is definitely my favorite, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, because it was sort of a tribute last year's St. Patrick's Day Mystery Guest. Trust me, her Guinness/St. Patrick's Day picture was much better than mine! You can go looking for it in the archives, if you're so inclined.

I like the apparently freshly shaved head. I like the colors. I remember liking the beer afterwards (and lord knows I do miss my beer...). But I think the thing I like the best is that this is raw, right out of the camera! No manipulation of any kind. The bottle and my thumb almost seem to be badly added to the picture. No adjustment to the lighting. And I believe this was the first use of a black bed sheet for a background (I HIGHLY recommend the purchase of a black bed sheet--for photographic purposes only, of course!).

So there you have it. My favorites of 2010. If you want to check out the rest of mine to see if you agree, you can check them out over here. I'm looking forward to see what each of you chose as your favorites!
"She'll come, she'll go.
She'll lay belief on you
Skin sweet with musky oil
The lady from another grinning soul

Cologne she'll wear. Silver and Americard
She'll drive a beetle car
And beat you down at cool Canasta

And when the clothes are strewn
don't be afraid of the room
Touch the fullness of her breast.
Feel the love of her caress
She will be your living end"


Excerpt lyric by David Bowie

Check back Thursday afternoon to find out who this week's Mystery Guest is!
It wasn't too hard to figure out who our MG was this week. It's Lady Grinning Soul! Stop by and see what her favorite HNTs of the year were, and say hi!

A noticeably larger group of fellow HNTers joining in on the last OHNT of the decade! Be sure to stop by and leave some comments! As usual...NSFW.
I've got no plans for NYE this year. No parties to go to. And the weather won't be cooperating--bitter cold and snow. Sounds like a recipe for staying home if I've ever heard one. For any of you planning to go out, be safe, don't drink & drive, and behave! I hope all of you have a great new year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

End of year stuff

I suppose I should write something... Must be on a post-Christmas lull. Christmas was actually a very good weekend. Nowhere near the sadness that I anticipated. My two oldest nieces even got to talking about picking lint out of their father's belly button as kids. I know...sorta disgusting, but lots of laughs, and it seems that we're all coping with death pretty well.
Theme Alert! - Don't forget this last theme for the year! Choose your favorite HNT that you posted in 2010. If you're like me, you might have a couple, so cheating is allowed. :-P
I don't generally post a recruitment for OHNT, but this will be the LAST OHNT OF THE DECADE!!! If you've never done it before, or haven't in awhile, NOW is the time!!! It's as anonymous as you want it to be. Only those that you tell will know it's you (unless it's obvious by tattoos, backgrounds, etc...). Don't wait any longer...it's the end of the decade!!!
Might also note that I don't have a Mystery Guest for this week. First one to claim it, gets it! Email me!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to All!

So...it's Christmas Eve. Sad to say, I'm not feeling it this year. Slowly, and somewhat under the radar, the sadness of the family situation has crept in. Certainly not unexpected, but it's still taken me by surprise.

I've had the Christmas music going constantly at work (where I'm at right now, btw...), but very little at home. In fact it was just yesterday that I realized that I'm missing about a dozen Christmas CDs. The only place they might be would be at my sister's, where I took them TWO YEARS AGO. I think it's telling that I've got so much Christmas music that it took me two years to realize I'm missing a dozen CDs!

I usually class up the blog with a variety of Christmas/winter pictures. Maybe it's because of "new" blogger, but I just didn't have the desire to mess with it this year, other than what you see right now.

I have seen a few of the Christmas 'standards' on TV, but frankly, my heart wasn't into them. Though it was good to see "Scrooged"--but only the first time (I dislike these movie marathons. Sure, run them a couple of times, but not ten times in two weeks!). I even watched "Beavis and Butt-Head Do Christmas" and it hardly elicited a chuckle.

I had grand plans of getting Christmas cards out this year, working on them right after Nutcracker was done. Didn't get to them. Might try for an end-of-year card, but I'm not holding my breath. On the other hand, I've gotten a number of Christmas cards from you people, and every one of them has brought a smile. One definite bright spot right there.

I didn't do a tree this year. I think that was a mistake. But not because I wasn't "into" it. This new TV (and furniture changes) didn't allow room for one. At least not without spending a lot of time on even more changes. Which I didn't have. I'm thinking now that I would have liked one.

Other than going out for beers with Kamey, her brother and SIL earlier this week, I've avoided any social situations. Not that there were that many to choose from. Maybe an avoidance of constant condolences? I don't know.

The funny thing is...it's not a matter of hating Christmas, or even worse, stressing out over it. People who know me, know that I come off as a bit of a Grinch around Thanksgiving, but warm up to Christmas after the symphony stuff is done. It just didn't happen this year. And yet, I probably have a bit more spirit than some of you have, based on some of your posts and FB statuses. Some of you feel so defeated, especially at this time of year (or because of it). And I get down because, for as much as I'd like to be holly and jolly this year, there's nothing I can do to help you reach that point yourselves. Maybe it's not my place to try, but it's who I am (but don't tell anyone!).

With all of that said (did anyone read down this far?), there's been a few bright spots. The weather cooperating with me during the two weeks of orchestra moves--bright and sunny and relatively warm (as opposed to the snowy, windy, sub-zero temps of the previous 3 years!). The national championship brought home by Carroll College made for a great Saturday afternoon. The aforementioned Christmas cards (and Gucci's caramels--OMG!). And I really like how the Three Wishes HNT was played out by you guys. Definitely our best year of doing that, I believe.

I DO want to wish every one of you a very happy, very merry Christmas! Whether you're at home or traveling, with the ones you love or away, with your family or with friends, be sure to make it a memorable one (preferably in a good way!). The Os clan will get together tonight, Mom and I will go out for a Christmas brunch, then she's going to host Christmas dinner. Not as many plates at the dinner table anymore, but I think it's going to be a good weekend.

And because I can, let me share one of my greatest fantasies--Scarlett Johansson playing the trombone. Really. There's only one way it could be any better...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Three Christmas Wishes HNT 2010

This week's theme is, by far, the hardest theme of the year that I come up with. It's the one I hear the most complaints about, as well as the most compliments about what a great idea it is! The premise is simple (or so I thought)--pick three bloggers/HNTers that you'd give Christmas wishes/gifts to, with unlimited means and resources. The catch--don't pick three of your closest blogger buddies. You'll be sending them ecards/chats/texts/emails to send your Christmas wishes anyway. No, the hard part here is to pick three that you might not even read, other than on Thursdays. Three that strike your fancy enough to let them know they're a hair above the rest of the masses. It also requires a bit of research into that person's blog so that your wishes/gifts are at least appropriate. This was a whole lot easier in the old days when there were so many doing HNT. But I think I've picked three good ones...

The first person I thought of was Biscuit over at "Diary of a One Biscuit Hound". I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we miss her. Almost always funny (whether intentional or not) in her writing, always classy with her HNTs, and just a joy to visit every day. I'm going with two things for her. Ultimately, she gave up blogging because of a lack of time. So first off, I'd give her an extra two hours in the day. But being selfish, those two hours would be spent online with us--not for chores or anything! Secondly, I know she's been wanting a bigger house, so I'd give her a monstrously big house. With the appropriate number of maids, pool boys, gardeners, chefs and handmaidens. Certainly don't want her spending her extra hours in the day cleaning the place herself! We miss ya, Biscuit!

The next person on my list would be Cher. Some of you might remember her simply as ~C~. She's a young single mother who has had to put up with a great deal of crap in life. And is still up to her pretty little neck in it. Blogging has pretty much fallen by the wayside, though she does Facebook somewhat regularly. Out of privacy, I won't get into details, but she's still dealing with some major stress in her life. So my wish for her would be a honkin' big pill that she could take that would miraculously take care of all that is troubling her so that she can get on with her life. And since it's a big honkin' pill, there's no reason it can't be a colorful one! Hang in there, kiddo!

Third on my list is the remarkable Ashly Star. Anyone who has been around here for any length of time knows her. She's led a far more colorful life than most of us, despite her young age (ok, she's definitely young to me!). She's spent much of her recent months unemployed, though not for lack of searching. She's been living with her boyfriend in his parent's basement (I think that's correct...). Money is not something that she's been swimming in. She has never whined about the lack of money, other than the occasional bitch about the lousy job market. She's a survivor, and will do whatever needs to be done to live life. And yet, every Christmas, she scrapes together what money she does have, and purchases toys to be donated to Toys For Tots. Money that could go towards new clothes, a little partying, or a car. These past two years she's asked us to join her, and we've delivered. And when she's through spending our money on toys, she spends a little more of her own. (be sure to check her site to see the toys she bought this year!) She's on the short list of bloggers I absolutely MUST meet someday (not sure why that didn't happen when I was down there...). Anyway, my Christmas wish for her would be a pile of money ($100s, of course). Not talking millions here or anything like that. But a good chunk of change for her to spend on herself. Not on toys, not for rent, not for food. But for a nice house, maybe four years of college, a car. The things that many of us take somewhat for granted. Allowing her to put herself at the front of the line. Not that she's looking to be there, or needs to be. But the good karma she's building up for herself is going to pay off for her someday, and I might as well be the one to gift it to her!

For the rest of you (how could I forget the rest of you?), I wish you the very happiest and merriest of Christmases. Might prove to be a tough one around here, but could also be one of the most memorable. Safe travels, if you're doing that. I look forward to our last HNT/OHNT of the decade next week!
"I bring a gift of Winter Roses to thee,
And offer a kiss 'neath the Mistletoe tree,
And adorn your hair with Holly berries,
In this celebration of Winter's Solstice."


Excerpt from "A Gift Of Winter Roses"
By Harry Boslem

This week's Mystery Guest will be revealed Thursday afternoon. Be sure to come back to see who she is!
Today certainly did not suck! Our MG this week is the lovely slice of sunshine known as Maggie! Stop by to say "Merry Christmas" to her!

Lots of people wanting to get in on the last OHNTs of the decade over at "...the Other HNT"! Be sure to check out your fellow HNTers. And don't wait for an invitation--if you want to get in on the last one of the year, feel free to join in! NSFW, as always...
I finally got caught up on gathering up all of my HNTs in one spot! Two-hundred eighty HNTs, with all the click-throughs and mouseovers (#281 was last week's picture--it's not posted yet). Every week possible (not counting the December themes weeks, or that awful week in Jan. '07). It's going to make it easy to go back and pick my favorite for next week's theme! (click on the tab below the header at the top of this page) Now I just have to get the OsShirt site current!
Gotta leave you with a song...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

10 Christmas albums that you should at least check out...

Again, another list from 2006. I worked too damned hard that year on these not to share them again! Only one addition to the list for 2010. Admittedly, I haven't really looked for anything new this season--no time! But the original list and additions are still pretty good.

First, the honorable mentions: These are additions since 2006. First would be James Taylor's "At Christmas". Probably helps if you're a James Taylor fan though (I am). Another album is The Bobs' "Too Many Santas". Not much on the classics, but they're style of a cappella music is so incredible that I have to at least mention them. If you get the chance to hear their albums where they record pop classics, you'll agree! New to the additions for 2010 is Diana Krall's "Christmas Songs". It's not a new album, having come out in 2005, but it should have been on this list when it first was compiled. I'm just taking care of a lapse in judgment! Lastly--I'm sorry, I love "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics" by the South Park gang. It's crude, rude, nasty, but there's a couple of real gems to be found! Now to the original list...
  • 10.- Deana Carter - "Father Christmas" - Deana and her superb guitarist father. No one else. Mostly jazzy guitar with her twangy country voice--it actually works!
  • 9. - Mark Mothersbaugh - "Joyeaux Mutato" - You might not recognize the name, but he was a founding member of DEVO. That means lots of synthesized sounds and just weird music. Very few of these are remotely Christmasy, but there's a Christmas feel to them, and you can almost tell what song it's almost sounding like...
  • 8. - Various Artists - "Merry Axemas, Vol. 2" - This is a follow-up to Volume 1 (duh) of guitar superstars from all types of bands. I believe there might have been a Volume 3, too. One can find Neal Schon, Trevor Rabin, Zakk Wylde, Robin Trower, Ted Nugent, Al Di Meola, etc., etc. No vocals--just instrumentals. Excellent compilation!
  • 7. - Various Artists - "Have Yourself A Jazzy Little Christmas" - Top jazz artists playing Christmas songs. Better than run of the mill. Oscar Peterson, Jimmy Smith, Billie Holiday, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé.
  • 6. - Hollywood Trombones - "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" - About 20 of Hollywood's best studio and jazz trombonists get together to play jazz and standard arrangements of Christmas classics. Playing a full range of trombones from contrabass trombone to soprano trombone. It's definitely geeky...
  • 5. - Bob Rivers - "Twisted Christmas" - This actually spans 5 albums over the years. Bob Rivers is a radio DJ in Seattle. He's done song parodies for awhile. It was just natural that Christmas songs got the treatment as well! "The 12 Pains of Christmas", "Walkin 'Round In Women's Underwear" (sung to "Winter Wonderland") and "O, Little Town of Bethlehem" (sung to "House of the Rising Sun"--it works!) are some of the numerous memorable songs.
  • 4. - Vince Guaraldi Trio - "A Charlie Brown Christmas" - This is the trio behind all that wonderful music. Very light, easily accessible jazz arrangements, plus the unmistakable "Linus & Lucy". The only thing that would make this perfect would be the inclusion of Linus, reciting the biblical version of Jesus' birth. One of the finest soliloquies on TV.
  • 3. - Spike Jones - "It's A Spike Jones Christmas" - First off, you need to know who Spike Jones is. No way to describe his band, other than you have to experience their style. Novelty, maybe? Secondly, this isn't like any other Spike Jones album. Put together for Jones' family gatherings, it's more like the 40s-style large choral groups singing very tight arrangements. If you're looking for the glug-glugs and slide whistles, this isn't the album. But a very good collection.
  • 2. - Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass - "Christmas Album" - This is vintage early 70s HA&TB. They were very hot at the time, and this is a great collection of songs. My mother bought this album when I was a highly impressionable young brass player, and we have played it repeatedly every Christmas. Even to this day! Thank God it came out on CD!
  • 1. - SHeDAISY - "Brand New Year" - Easily my favorite of all Christmas albums. Fresh arrangements of standard Christmas songs, with a couple of new, original songs. The impeccable vocal stylings of the ladies is unmistakable, and even though they are a country act, this album shows no real signs of that. If you haven't heard this one, it's the ONE album of the bunch that I think you should hear!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gosh, that was purty!

Last time a total lunar eclipse happened on the winter's solstice was on Dec. 21, 1638. With the possible exception of BTExpress, none of us were around to witness that. And minutely few of us will be around to see it again in the year 2094.

I suppose there's some sort of spiritual thing I should have felt as the clouds parted, and I watched that last sliver of white disappear, but I don't think I did. Probably the same feeling I should have watching the first sliver of white reappear at the end of it, but I'm going to miss that. It's freakin' 1° out there!

Not the most spectacular lunar eclipse I've seen (lower in the horizon/"bigger" moon), but this one was pretty cool. And it marks the first day of winter, meaning the days will be getting longer. And that's going to be a welcome thing!

Happy Winter Solstice to all!

10 Favorite Versions of "Jingle Bells"

Repost from 2006. My 10 favorite versions of "Jingle Bells". Again, if you're interested in an mp3 of any of these, I should be able to help you out. The order might have changed a little bit since 4 years ago, but with this song, one can hardly go wrong. With the exception of the singing dogs...
  • 10.- The Mills Brothers - Their harmonies are as perfect and tight as any group around. I think I like this one more for their reputation on earlier recordings, where they would break into "instrumental" sounds with their own voices. Simply remarkable.
  • 9. - Diana Krall - This would be her big band version. Anyone who has never heard her voice or piano talents is missing out! Canadian, blond, a golfer, a total knock-out. Her only possible weakness is that she's married to Elvis Costello.
  • 8. - Morton Gould - Probably a name that you won't recognize. "Jingle Bells" is one of the first songs a beginning band student learns. Just in time for the school Christmas concert. How do you go about writing an arrangement of it for highly-trained, highly-paid musicians? You do it the way that Mr. Gould did. Fast, complex, tricky. It's a difficult piece for the musicians, but a joy for the audience. You don't really get to hear it often, but it's a great version!
  • 7. - Swingle Singers - Probably the best a cappella version. The Swingle Singers were well known for their vocalizations of classical pieces. They also got into the jazz area, and were the singers during the chase scenes of the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". Very distinct style.
  • 6. - The Hollywood Trombones - OK--this is a geeky trombonist's dream. I can't begin to tell you how incredibly talented these guys are!
  • 5. - Jewel - This is just a cute, jazzy, a cappella version. I like it! Note: I cannot, for the life of me, find a recording of this. It could be her recording of "Rudolph" I was thinking of, or it might very well be a figment of my imagination... OK...this recording doesn't actually exist. It was "Rudolph". I'll have to find a version to replace #5 now...
  • 4. - moe. - These guys are a jam group that infuses fun in their rock. Influenced by the Grateful Dead, they have played at Woodstock 99, and opened for the Who this past summer. Just a darned fun version!
  • 3. - Diana Krall - Yeah, her again. A couple of years before she released her Christmas album, she did a three-song EP as a promo product. This is the version found on that, and is the more recognized version of the two.
  • 2. - Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters - You can hear a snippet of this version in the movie "A Christmas Story" when they're opening presents on Christmas morn. At least that's where I think it is. Barry Manilow/Exposé have recorded a similar version recently. Jazzy, up-tempo and fun.
  • 1. - Jimmy Smith - Great version from the jazz organist himself. The Hammond B-3 has rarely sounded so good!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Redux - Favorite/Least Liked Christmas Songs

First off, though...

Carroll College Fighting Saints
2010 NAIA National Champions!!

6th Championship in Ten Years!
Since 2000, they have the most wins in ALL divisions of football,
from high school through all professional leagues!

Reposting my favorite and least favorite Christmas songs. If you want mp3s of any of these, I'll be more than happy to send them! I'll start with my least liked, and then my favorites:
    Least Favorite Christmas Songs:

  • 10.- Any Christmas song recorded by Michael Bolton - Well, that should probably read any song recorded by Michael Bolton.
  • 9. - Any Christmas song recorded by Mariah or Britney or BoyzIIMen or 'N Sync or Hillary or Christina, ad nauseum.... - Actually, Christina's Christmas album wasn't too bad.
  • 8. - "This Christmas" by anyone... - This song really wants to be this generation's "signature" Christmas song. Somebody needs to tell singers that it's not going to be this Christmas, next Christmas, or any Christmas in the foreseeable future.
  • 7. - Any Christmas song recorded in a "country" style - This does not necessarily mean I don't like Christmas songs recorded by country artists. But the country-fying of most songs just drives me up a wall.
  • 6. - "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney - Yeah, he was the "cute" Beatle. Yeah, he's written some of the best, most recognizable music of the 20th century. Yeah, everyone has an "off" day some days. Why can't we recognize that and just attribute this song to that, and scrub it? The world's greatest composers were smart enough to recognize a stinker and would toss their poor efforts into the fire.
  • 5. - "Merry Christmas, Darling" by the Carpenters - Don't get me wrong. I loved the Carpenters. The very first concert I ever went to was the Carpenters. In the midst of my hormone-ravaged junior high years. But this one is SO overplayed... And it's one of "those" songs that's rarely recorded by others, simply because it was so well done the first time. But once an hour???
  • 4. - "Last Christmas" by Wham! - The first words of this song are the ONLY references to Christmas in this song. It's about a failed relationship. Why does everyone want to record it??
  • 3. - "Because It's Christmas" by Barry Manilow - Because it's Christmas, I'll be gentle... What an overproduced piece of crap! I don't know exactly when this was recorded, but it sounds like an afterthought from the recording session for "I Write The Song". And some of the sheet music from that was left on the musicians music stands. They're like fraternal twins. So much alike, but different. Despite the fact that I consider Barry Manilow an overattacked, but brilliant musician/entertainer, this should never have been released.
  • 2. - "White Christmas" by anyone other than Bing Crosby - There are certain songs that should never, ever be recorded ever again, because the first one was perfect. This is one of them.
  • 1. - "Any Christmas song recorded by Celine Dion - Nothing more needs be said...

    10 Favorite Christmas Songs: (but I'm doing 20--it's my list...)

  • 20.- "Silver Bells" - The Bob Hope version. From the movie "The Lemon Drop Kid". As usual, the original version is the best, and that's no different here.
  • 19.- "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" - Whoever came up with the pairing of David Bowie (in his prime) and Bing Crosby (just being der Bingle) has a special place in Heaven waiting for him. Yes, it's overplayed, but when the video hit the screens, you could hear a pin drop, regardless of where you were watching it. I miss Bing...
  • 18.- "Shimmy Down the Chimney" - This was recorded for a country Christmas compilation album a couple of years ago by Alison Krauss. It's a rare instance of her performing a style other than her brand of bluegrass (though she's sung background vocals on a number of rock-type albums). This song is a feel-good, pop-style, horn-infused, waitin'-for-Santa, love song. If you like Alison, you'll love this. If you don't, you still need to find it and listen to it!
  • 17.- "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" - The Russ Freeman (the "Rippingtons") version. I generally don't like this song, but it's harmonic structure lends itself to some great arrangements. This one is sort of a Calypso/salsa/something uptempo thing.
  • 16.- "And the glory of the Lord" - This is one of the movements from Handel's Messiah. A much better song than the "Hallelujah" chorus. I've never heard a bad recording of this song, even among the bad recordings of Messiah.
  • 15.- "Winter Wonderland" - Finally! A song that can be successfully recorded by just about anyone and still sound pretty good! And it has been... My personal favorite versions are one by Deana Carter and another one recorded by the Hollywood Trombones (see more descriptions of their albums in a future list). There's not many ways to screw this one up!
  • 14.- "Silent Night" - I really like the Mannheim Steamroller version of this, though the entire concept has been overplayed (same with Trans-Siberian Orchestra). Again, this song is ripe with different versions just waiting to be written.
  • 13.- "It Happened In Sun Valley" - From the movie "Sun Valley Serenade" starring Sonja Henie, John Payne, Milton Berle and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Not really a Christmas song, but deal with it. The version I REALLY like is by those South Park kids Stan and Wendy on "Mr. Hanky's Christmas Classics". Truly, it's very good. Except for the pukey parts...
  • 12.- "The Christmas Song" - This one's sort of on the fence, because everyone thinks they can record it. You really have to know what you're doing though... My favorite versions--Mel Tormé (the composer) does it in a way that's indescribable and in his signature style. Nat King Cole recorded the "definitive" version of it (many times, actually), though it's WAY overplayed. Chuck Brown and Eva Cassidy did a nice version. Christina Aguilera's version is the only one besides Cole's that made it to the Top 40 charts.
  • 11.- "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" - This song lends itself well to a large group style of performance. Which is why it just doesn't sound good when Sinatra records it. Or any other solo artist. When done with full choir and orchestra, it's rarely less than glorious. From a musician's standpoint, this is a great piece to play, too!
  • 10.- "O Holy Night" - To do this song correctly, you REALLY need to be good! Better done by large groups, but there's some good solo performances of it. And some incredibly BAD ones. Spectacularly demonstrated by Cartman on "Mr. Hanky's Christmas Classics". It's a favorite of mine because I specifically remember when I heard it for the first time. December, 1962 (shaddup) at Central School's (which looks EXACTLY like the one in "A Christmas Story") Christmas Concert, held in the 7th Avenue Gym (across the playground). I was a first grader, and I heard the 6th graders sing this song. I had never heard it before. I was blown away. For as much as a 5 year old boy can be blown away. I have always loved this song since that day!
  • 9. - "Jing-a-ling" - I have a recording of this song, but it's some thrown-together studio group. But the song kicks ass! It's done in a style alá the Andrews Sisters. Jazzy, up-tempo, and fun! I'd love to hear the original!
  • 8. - "All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Not the Mariah Carey waste of breath. This is the one hit recorded by Vince Vance and the Valiants. It is sung by a female lead in a late 50s triplet ballad style, with passion just oozing from the speakers. And a rough, raw tenor sax solo (like any good 50s song) in the middle. Again, one of those songs that was done so perfectly the first time that it's rarely covered by anyone else.
  • 7. - "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - I LOVE this song! Technically not a Christmas song, but usually associated with the season. The entire contrapuntal dialog between the woman and the man is a conversation that everyone of us has uttered at sometime in our lives. Trying to get the lady to spend the night! Her with the reasons why she can't. Him with the reasons why she should. And all the subtle (or not-so-subtle) undertones of other types of conversations! There's been alterations to the lyrics over the years, and pairings between some truly interesting duets! It appeared in the movie "Elf", sung by Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone. The current version of Natalie Cole and James Taylor is pretty damned good.
  • 6. - "Sleigh Ride" - One that anyone can do. Personally, I consider the original orchestral piece written by Leroy Anderson as the best (written for the Boston Pops--they seem to play it the best, even to this day!). Of course, there's the Motown version by the Ronettes, which is a classic in its own right. And one that's performed by bass guitar virtuoso Stu Hamm with some tasty B-3 in the background. Most recently, SHeDAISY recorded an altered version of it that I like best.
  • 5. - "Let It Snow" - Lots of versions, but the one I like the best is one by Gloria Estefan. Not much of the Miami Sound Machine, but it's a great treatment of the song!
  • 4. - "I Believe In Father Christmas" - Recorded years ago by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, it's beginning to find it's niche in the Christmas season. Being a child of the 70s, and the prog-rock movement of the day, ELP were gods to me, so I automatically liked this song. It's actually been recorded by other bands recently, lending credence to the idea that this is a pretty good song.
  • 3. - "Carol of the Bells" - Another standard Christmas song that mesmerized me in my youth. Another one that lends itself well to variety. It's the cross rhythms of the 2 against 3, in case you're really wondering. My current favorite versions--Mr. Mackey's version on "Mr. Hanky's Christmas Classics" (how can such a vile album be so good??), and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's version as the basis for "Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24".
  • 2. - "White Christmas" - Only sung by Bing Crosby. Originally sung by Bing in the movie "Holiday Inn" (1942), it was again heard as the title song in 1954's "White Christmas". No one should ever attempt to record this song again. It can't be done any better.
  • 1. - "Jingle Bells" - And it's not even Christmas specific! But it's my #1. So many great versions that I'm going to do a separate list of the top ten best recordings of it!
There you go--hope you found it as interesting as I tell myself it is!

Friday, December 17, 2010

And even more thoughts...

When one hasn't been grocery shopping in four weeks, one has a tendency to spend an awful lot of money when they actually get there. Eek!!!
Saturday is the big game around here. Carroll College will be playing the University of Sioux Falls for the NAIA Championship in Rome, GA. Since 2002, I believe, the championship has gone to one of these two teams. Should be an excellent game! GO SAINTS!!
Spending the weekend at home, which will be a nice change. Lots of domestic work that needs to get done! Other than a birthday brunch on Sunday for N2. And don't hold me to it, but I might actually work on some Christmas cards!
I'll be reposting my favorite Christmas songs, least favorite Christmas songs, and best versions of "Jingle Bells" over the next few days. It's certain to spark some serious debate!
Miffed at my wireless router at home. My iPod Touch can seem to connect to it most of the time. Works great when it does, but that's currently running less than half the time. The laptop has no problems with it though. Grrr...
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" was on last night, and I finally got to watch it. The season can officially start! Also have been able to catch up on some other Christmas movies, so all is good!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Tree HNT 2010

It's Christmas Tree HNT week!

When my sisters and I were together last month, we got into storytelling about our Christmas tree hunts. Every year until I left home and ran off to college, my dad would load us into the pickup, and we'd head out for the great hunt. None of this tree lot or tree farm business for us! We'd head out to the same general place every year. Most years there was a good blanket of snow on the ground until we got into the trees. We even were able to go back to see if certain trees had grown out since the winter before, and if they were ready to harvest. Dad and I would each have an ax (no chainsaws for us!), and usually got two trees. A big one for the living room, and a much smaller one for my sisters' bedroom. During the day, we'd also get little lessons on the bushes and other flora in the hills. Mom would have us gather fresh pine cones from the ground, and pick pine boughs for wreath-making. And kinnikinnick (I always liked saying that word!) for other Christmas greenery.

Years later, after most of the kids had left home, the parents went for the tree lot tree, and then the fake tree. I remember one winter, though, that S3 and I had some sibling bonding time and went out to the same place to get a tree for her apartment. The place was just as I remembered it, and she was amazed at how quickly I bounded up the hillside in the knee-deep snow. "Gazelle-like" was the term she used. Yeah, I know--hard to believe, isn't it? I think we've only been up there one more time for tree hunting since then. S3's family and some friends went up there about 19 years ago. Not quite so "gazelle-like", but still a good time (booze and chili were involved with this one, so this was a good time!).

Today, the road has been gated off. Private property. The top of the hill--now someone's living room. We'll never quite have the opportunity to go on the great tree hunts. But the memories will always be there.

Which is a roundabout way to say that, because of the past four weeks being so ridiculously busy, I've opted not to do a tree this year. It's not because I'm not feeling the season, nor am I sulking or mourning. I just haven't had any time at all. However, that's not going to help me with this week's HNT. So I'm recycling last years Christmas Tree HNT, but displayed on the 40" plasma screen that I bought on Black Friday (didn't tell you guys about that yet!). Cheating? Perhaps, but the TV looks great! Looking forward to see what you guys come up with!


"Take back the holly and mistletoe
Silver bells on string
If I wrote a letter to Santa Claus
I would ask for just one thing
I don't need sleigh rides in the snow
Don't want a Christmas that's blue
Take back the tinsel, stockings, and bows
'Cuz all I want for Christmas is you

I don't need expensive things
They don't matter to me
All that I want, can't be found
Underneath the Christmas tree
You are the angel atop my tree
You are my dream come true
Santa can't bring me what I need
'Cuz all I want for Christmas is you"


"All I Want for Christmas Is You"
Vince Vance & Valiants

Check back Thursday afternoon to find out who our Christmas gift might be!
Most of you figured out that Tigress is our MG this week. Stop by and check out her Christmas lights. You won't be sorry!

Check to see what sorts of Christmasy pictures you find over at "...the Other HNT". 'Tis the season, you know! Be sure to leave some comments for your fellow HNTers! Only two more Thursdays to go before the end of the year if you'd like to join in yourselves. And yes, it's still NSFW...
THEME ALERT! - Start thinking NOW about next week's theme! It is undeniably the hardest HNT to come up with all year. Trust me on that one! The good news--to take the pressure off of coming up with pictures, you don't need to take anymore until January! Click on the theme details tab under the header at the top of the page!
I'm not sure if Ashly Star is still accepting donations for Toys For Tots, but it can't hurt to go check. If she is, this will be the last chance to do it, as she's got to have time to go out and buy the toys! It doesn't take much at all--$5, $10, $20--just go do it! It's easy, it's fun, and it's going to make you feel pretty darned good!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some more ponderings...

It dawned on me the other day that I haven't been to a Christmas party in years and years. I've played for many during that time, but I haven't been invited to any since moving back here in '91. Never in a job that people would want to get together outside of the office, and I probably couldn't attend anyway, due to my performance scheduling. I think I'd like to go to one sometime again.
Don't even get me started about ever having a job where I could expect a Christmas/holiday bonus...
This isn't a Christmas complaint, but it seems to have cropped up more over the past few weeks. I'm really tired of reading comments where guys use the word "cum" instead of "come". I mean, sure it's got it's place...in erotica/smut/porn. But do guys think it's clever to use it all the time? Shouldn't that have die out after 10th grade or so?
I got to thinking about all the snow that the midwest got this weekend, and how the rain around here is melting pretty much all that we've had. Then I started thinking about "white" Christmases around here. I've been pretty fortunate in that most of them have been "white". Biggest white one I remember was in the very early 80s. Well over two feet of snow fell during Christmas while I was teaching in northern Idaho. I was headed home for the holidays, but had to leave at night. I had to cross over Lookout Pass, on the MT-ID border, and the snow kept getting deeper (one of the prettiest drives I've taken). As I headed more into MT, and things start to flatten out, the full moon rises over the mountains. I remember being able to drive for miles at a time with my headlights off. The massive amounts of snow all around me reflected all that full moonlight onto the road. Yeah...I'm still alive.
I was at the Wall of Mart the other week, and perused the DVDs they had on sale. I've always considered myself somewhat knowledgeable about Christmas movies, and what's considered a good holiday movie, or even a "classic". So imagine my surprise when I found out differently! I missed out on knowing that Patrick Swayze even had a Christmas movie, let alone something that would be included in a "Holiday Collector's Set"! Anyone ever see this one? It must be good if it can be included with an Ed Asner movie!

I dug deeper, and found the "New Christmas Classics". These would be the cartoon classics. Again, imagine my disappointment in not having ever heard of these particular ones! These are the new classics, people! Why have the networks dropped the ball on these?? Or have I just missed out? And darn it, can you imagine my disappointment when I went back to purchase this one and it was gone? Which means someone else actually DID buy it??

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thoughts over the past 2 weeks...

In spite of not being online much, I have been having thought. Imagine that! In no particular order:
  • One of the downsides of being so busy over the past few weeks is that I've been missing all the standard Christmas specials on TV. I've seen "Elf", but only because it's been on a dozen times already. And I caught "White Christmas" last night because it was run back-to-back. But I have yet to see "Grinch" or "Charlie Brown", "Miracle on 34th Street", or "Frosty". I'm sure some of them will be on again in the next ten days, but it's really what gets me in the holiday mood.
  • Also just as bad...I haven't seen an NFL game in two weeks! I couldn't tell you who played whom, who won, and what the playoff race looks like. Gotta catch up next weekend!
  • Noticed that the Housekeeping Fairy didn't bother stopping by over the past three weeks. Gonna have to get to work on that...
  • Speaking of next weekend, the Carroll College Fighting Saints play for the NAIA national championship. GO SAINTS!
  • Did you know that it's less than two weeks until Christmas??
  • I was going to make nasty comments about everyone complaining about their "snow", and "cold", then the roof at the Metrodome collapsed (have you seen the video of that??). Guess it really was bad out there!
  • While the week of my dad's funeral was double digits below zero, I was able to load the equipment truck yesterday in balmy mid-40° weather. Fifty degrees warmer than the previous two years! I guess I can rub it in, can't I?
  • Make whatever jokes you want about male ballet dancers--I am thoroughly amazed at the strength and muscles these guys have. Legs, arms, upper bodies...don't ever say that they aren't athletes!
  • Got word that HyperSexualGirl had her Blogger blog deleted out from under her. No warning, and possible security problems. Would not be a bad idea to back up your blogs... Update from HSG: "Apparently the blogs will be restored, but it may take Blogger several days to repair. The problem is compounded by the fact that Blogger has incredibly cumbersome and inefficient customer 'service'."
  • Saturday night's performance was less-than-perfect. Music was pretty good, and the dancing was spectacular, but the technical stuff had more glitches in that one performance than I think we've had in years combined. No one felt as badly about things as the tech director, and things went perfectly on Sunday, but it was a disappointing aspect of an otherwise great performance.
  • Only a couple more days to get your donations in to Ashly Star for her Toys For Tots project.
  • The best workers I have come from the homeless shelter. I only use them for about half an hour to move the horrendously heavy risers that the orchestra sits on from the church where we store them, onto the equipment truck. They show up on time, are eager to please, and have never been a problem. For their efforts, they're paid $10, which they promptly take to the store a block away to buy cigarettes and/or beer. Makes me happy to bring a smile to their faces during the Christmas season!
  • Don't forget the Christmas Tree HNT theme this week! Click on the tab below my header up there to get details...
OK. I think that's about it for now. Should be back on track now!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Opening Lines 2010

I stole this from Leesa's site in 2005, and have continued each year.

What was the first line from your blog the first day of each month in 2010?

January - "Hell, I had hoped to post a picture of 13 Messages and me at Hooters last night, but my fancy new phone won't let me upload pics." (Started the new year in Nashville.)

February - "Just thought I'd share..." (Dealing with a head full of snot, I posted a sort of disgusting picture.)

March - "Not sure why I watched as much Olympic coverage as I did, but I think I watched just about every day (except the days I was busy with symphony stuff)." (Really not an Olympics junkie, but it did catch my eye this year.)

April - "It is time for this April Fool to do what he can on April Fool's Day ... learn from the best! " (HNT fell on the 1st this year. The "best" being the Three Stooges!)

May - "That's where I'm at right now." (A long list of things that were bothering me at the time.)

June - "As mentioned earlier this week, my June has unexpectedly gotten quite busy." (Noting the amount of music writing I had to get done in a short amount of time. Little did I know that my BIL's death would be the next day, causing all sorts of havoc...)

July - "Moose left for home this morning, bright and early." (After almost a week here, she headed back to Alaska.)

August - "It was over a year ago that BTExpress had the grand opening of his new pool." (Posted a day before I headed to Long Island for the party!)

September - "Busy like there's no tomorrow these days." (Somewhat self-explanatory.)

October - "Mom turned 75 on Friday." (Happy Birthday, Mom!)

November - "It's November!" (Obviously!)

December - "...Here it is: your hnt has to be a shot of you with "Suck it, Griz" written in blue (and gold if you can find it) either somewhere on your body - your choice as to where - or on a sign that you're holding..." (The explanation of my end of the Great Grizzly/Bobcat bet made with Gucci.)
Feel free to steal this and do it yourselves!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Crackin' the Nuts HNT

I've been in production mode for the past five days, and still have five more to go. In a nice turn of fortune, the hall where we're doing the show has free wi-fi, so I'm not totally shut off from the outside. Then again, it's a little difficult perusing blogs (especially some of yours!) without worrying about little leotard-clad girls walking by. Or worse...their parents!

Since I'm essentially living there for the rest of the week, the chance to take a decent HNT is non-existent. However, I was able to take this one quickly from the audience's perspective. Only got about half of the stage though. Not much half-nekkidness, but they can't all be winners (unless, of course, you're Cheeky Minx or Elle...).

Hope you get to crack some nuts this season!



THE STROKE - Billy Squier

Now everybody have you heard
If you're in the game, then the strokes the word
Don't take no rhythm, don't take no style
Got a thirst for killin', grab your vial and ...

Put your right hand out, give a firm hand-shake
Talk to me about that one big break...
Spread your ear-pollution both far and wide...
Keep your contributions by your side and stroke me, stroke me
Could be a winner boy, you move quite well...
Stroke me, stroke me...
Stroke me, stroke me...
You got your number down...
Stroke me, stroke me...
Stroke me, stroke me...
Say you're a winner but man you're just a sinner now

Put your left foot out keep it all in place...
Work your way right into my face
First you try to bed me you make my backbone slide
But when you found you bled me, skip on by... keep on
stroke me, stroke me
Give me the business all night long
Stroke me, stroke me (stroke)
Stroke me, stroke me
You're so together boy...
Stroke me, stroke me
Say you're a winner but man you're just a sinner now

Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke

Better listen now said it ain't no joke
Let your conscience fail ya, just do the stroke
Don'tcha take no chances keep your eye on top
Do your fancy dances you cant stop you just stroke me, stroke me

Stroke, stroke
Stroke me, stroke me
Stroke, stroke
Stroke me, stroke me
Stroke, stroke
Stroke me, stroke me
Stroke
Do it.
Stroke me, stroke me.
Stroke
Stroke me, stroke me.
Come on, stroke
Stroke me, stroke me.
Stroke me, stroke me.
Say you're a winner but man you're just a sinner now...



M e o w . . .

This week's MG is Kittycat. Though she doesn't have a picture up for HNT this week, you can go back and check out her previous ones. Go say hi!

Quite the collection over at "...the Other HNT" this week! And a milestone of sorts...we've hit 500 followers over there! Something nice about an even number like that. Of course, half of them are spam sites, but it's still a nice number! Go check out your fellow HNTers! There's even a little Christmas to be found over there! Definitely NSFW this week. (sorry--it's going to go up late tonight, at midnight, Mountain time)
Theme Alert! - Don't forget to check out the themes for the rest of the month! Click on the tab up there under my header. (or for those of you too lazy to do that...click here!)
This is the last week to help out Ashly Star with her Toys for Tots donations. It only takes a few dollars to make a huge difference in a kid's Christmas. She makes it as easy as possible to donate, too. Go do it!!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Quick Break in the Action...

Figured I'd better get something written now, as I'll be putting in a 16-hr. day with set-up, staff meetings and rehearsal. My busiest week of the year has commenced...
A bit of housecleaning around here with weekend things that didn't get mentioned yet... Gucci's beloved Bobcats (the ones from "the bet") were seeded #4 in the FCS playoffs. They got a bye for the first weekend, and hosted North Dakota State in the quarterfinals. And got hammered 42-17. Being the nice guy that I am, I emailed her immediately after the game, knowing full well she didn't really care. I should have done a second phase to the bet...
Not all was dismal for football in Montana. The Carroll College Fighting Saints beat St. Xavier University to make their 7th trip to the NAIA Championship Game since 2002, winning five national championships in that time! Their fourth championship was in 2005--a game I watched in Tennessee, along with the first ever OsTour! The game's been moved to Rome, GA now, so any of you in the area should go and root for the Saints!
Got a wonderful package in the mail today. I ordered the new Blue Ray/DVD combo pack of Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 on Friday through Amazon, and it was in my mailbox on Monday. Very excited about that!
For as exciting as that was, it didn't hold a candle to the other package I received Monday. I got my first Christmas letter, Christmas card and Christmas treats of the year. And all from one person! The lovely, charming and surprisingly domestic (don't tell her I said that) Gucci! The letter was printed on card stock! Not that cheap paper you buy at Staples! And she actually hand wrote a couple of things to me (all sweet, other than the unnecessary "Go Cats" at the end. Obviously she sent this out before their embarrassing showing)! Then an endearing handwritten personal card (even her penmanship exudes Gucciness). But the prized jewel in all of this--homemade sea salt caramels! Each one individually hand-rolled! You can even see her fingerprints in them. One might initially consider that an odd gift to a diabetic, but Gucci knows that one a day isn't going to kill me. I get to string these out throughout the month! But I had to try one as soon as I opened up the cute little Christmas bag she put them in. The woman has skillz! On top of all that, I have her address now, so I know exactly where to go creeping when she's in the hot tub. Be jealous, people!


(For those of you who are curious--no, we're not having a torrid affair or anything like that.
In spite of the fact that I've mentioned her by name more in the past 2 months than I have anyone else out here!)

Monday, December 06, 2010

'Tis the Season

The Christmas has officially started in Helena. The first weekend, for years, has been the Festival of Trees, and the symphony's Christmas in the Cathedral concert (usually, but not always, Handel's Messiah).

This year we did the Bach Magnificat as the big choral piece. No parts for the trombones, so we had the first half of the concert to just listen. Very nicely done, I might add, even without us. The second half of the concert wasn't as good, from a performance standpoint. I don't doubt that the audience didn't realize how bad it was. I'm always happy to spout off about how good we were in any given concert. It's only fair that I do it when we suck, too. No section was spared in the suckiness, either. One or two sections even stood out in it (no names, sorry--they might actually read this!). There was only one piece that the orchestra performed without voices. It was terrible. I could blame the bad lighting, or the cramped space we were forced to play in, or the lousy acoustics in the immediate area, but the fact is...we just sucked.
No time to think about that though... We start up with rehearsals for Nutcracker tomorrow. Which means I have to start the ball rolling with set up this afternoon. Tonight will be the last free night I have for a week. Ugh... (but you know I love this pressure at this time of year!).
One thing that's worked in my favor this year is the weather. For the past three years, the move between Messiah and Nutcracker has been on gray, cloudy, windy, sub-zero days. Wind chills in the -20° range. Still have to get the truck loaded. And the added fun of snowfall for the past two years. Well, not this year! Yesterday was still chilly, in the single digits, but the sun was shining brightly. And a sunny 8° is far warmer than a cloudy 8°! There was a freezing fog overnight, so the trees were covered in a frosty white. Interestingly, none of the evergreens were frosted. None of the firs, pines or junipers. Not sure why that was. I didn't have a camera, but they looked something similar to these (taken in 2005 at a rest stop in South Dakota...).


But I did have my cell phone, so I took this while waiting for Mass to get over before we could set up. Yeah, the sky was that blue!